Adolph Friedländer — Lithographies and Posters

Special exhibition April 6th-June 9th, 2014

Adolph Friedländer – king of lithography

People, animals and sensations – in a time without movie theaters, public broadcasting or television, posters were the most modern and effective means of mass advertising. Hamburg-based Adolph Friedländer was one of the best-known lithographers of the late 19th century. Friedländer’s printing company produced more than 9,000 posters between 1872 and 1935, most of which advertised zoos, circus artists and music halls. Among his customers were the Hagenbeck Circus and the Schichtl Puppet Theatre and Music Hall.

The Lübeck Museum of Theatre Puppets possesses some of these posters for the Schichtl Puppet Theatre. 110 years after Friedländer’s death, who has been dubbed king of lithography, these posters will be on display in our special exhibition together with a selection of various posters for circuses and fairs.

What to expect from the exhibition

Friedländer’s posters give testimony of a time exuberantly elated and dramatically moved by many novelties and sensations. The posters glisten in the most colorful variations of the attractions, curiosities and rarities they advertise and bring to life the long gone aspects of contemporary circus history. When the posters were produced in the early 20th century, aerialists, jugglers, sword-swallowers, magicians and other artists were the fairs’ sensations. Giants, obese and people with hypertrichosis – i.e. abnormal hair growth – were displayed as freaks; flea circuses and puppet theatres toured the country. 

Our exhibition features posters from five decades, among them historical lithographies for the puppet theatre dynasty of the Schichtl family from 1883 till 1912, as well as selected posters for the Hagenbeck Circus. These posters create a festive atmosphere and bring the colorful world of circuses, zoos and music halls back to life.

Accompanying program

Guided tours of the exhibition: April 25, May 23, June 6 at 3 p.m. with art historian Martin Gosch

Workshops “Graphic Drawing Techniques”: At Kunstschule der Gemeinnützigen every Tuesday 7:30-9:00 p.m. and every other Friday at 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. More information at

Insights into the history of Friedländer’s printing company

After his apprenticeship at his father’s stone printing company, Adolph Friedländer set up his own business at Thalstrasse 22 in Hamburg-St. Pauli in 1872, printing labels for grocery stores and delicatessen shops. The abundance of music halls, musical comedies and beer halls in the neighborhood of his company soon inspired him to specialize in the far more intricate printing of lithographies.

A Hamburg printing company conquers the world

Exceptional artisanal skill and the high quality of the colored prints helped Friedländer’s business to become recognized as one of the most significant lithographical printing companies for circus, artist, and music hall posters in Europe in late 19th and early 20th century. Friedländer soon became so successful that he was nicknamed “King of Artist Lithographies.” Almost all of the renowned circuses in Germany at least once ordered posters from his company. Friedländer’s clients came from all parts of Europe, the Middle and Far East and the Americas. Some became regular customers such as Circus Althoff, Circus Busch, and Circus Hagenbeck.

Carl Hagenbeck

 major order from Carl Hagenbeck of posters advertising a show of Sinhala people and a Kalmyk caravan helped Friedländer to his break-through in 1883/1884. The business connection between the two men evolved into a friendship which was continued by their sons. Hagenbeck was one of the last customers of Friedländer’s printing company during the Third Reich, when customers became scarce for the Jewish printer.

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Figurentheater & Museum

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Figurentheater & Museum

Beckergrube 38-52
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Theater Figuren Mobil

Kirchhof St. Petri
23552 Lübeck

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Geschäftsführende Museumsdirektorin

Dr. Antonia Napp


Stephan Schlafke